Calvin is Almost Four Years Old

Posted by Carly Morgan

This boy is almost four years old!

I like to take portraits of the kids near their birthdays but Calvin has hit that oh so fun age of hamming it up and being ridiculous whenever I pull out the camera. Although I love his silly monkey face, I wanted at least a few pictures of Calvin just being Calvin so I pulled a little mom trickery last night and took him out on a date (camera in tow) under the pretense of shopping for his birthday.

He chose to grab dinner at In-N-Out and head to Target, where he skipped over the plates, banners, and balloons that I suggested and went straight for the piñata. I don’t know if it was the bright colors, the friendly face, or the fact that he might be able to smash it to bits soon but he’s crazy about that piñata. Who knows?

We actually had a great time and it reminded me that I should pop out with the kids one at a time more often. We had some good conversations (what is grass made out of?) and we got to chat about the menu he wants for his party (pancakes, spray cheese, ice cream). We even took our time to browse through the toy aisles at Target and he snuck a clearance toy into the basket because I’m a big pushover around birthdays. Plus, his cute face. Hard to argue with this cute face.

Happy almost-birthday to my funny hug monster! May you always be quick to laugh, beautiful boy. Four!!!!!

The Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Legume-Free Sugar-Free Thing I’m Doing

Posted by Carly Morgan

So…good news and bad news.

Good news: I’ve lost 30 lbs since the beginning of the year!

Bad news: I’m on a super restricted eating plan and I don’t know if I’m ever coming off.

So you know Paleo and Whole 30, right? (If you don’t, check out this post here about the last time I lost 30 lbs.) I always get good results when I go on those restricted diets but then once I come off there’s an inevitable re-gain of at least some of the weight. To put it plainly, once the carbs find you, you tend to puff back up.

Well, it turns out that I might be a perma-Paleo eater and I’m not sure how I feel about it. This all started a few weeks ago when I was researching new treatments for Hashimoto’s disease. I’ve been taking a thyroid supplement for Hashimoto’s for the last ten years but lately it feels like it’s not really working because I was having a lot of fatigue, joint pain, and other problems. The non-pill treatment that kept coming up was to adopt a non-inflammatory diet, which means no gluten, dairy, legumes, nightshades, or sugar.

Say what? What does that leave to eat?

Chopped chicken burger with olives, salsa, and spinach

Sliced cocktail cucumbers with Trader Joe’s Everything Bagel seasoning

Scrambled eggs and guacamole

Steak, sweet potato hash, fried eggs

Tofu and stir-fry veggie mix

Kale with lemon avocado dressing and chicken apple sausage

It leaves meat and fruit and vegetables and that’s what I’ve been eating. I’m not actually supposed to be eating soy or eggs either but I couldn’t handle dropping those two so I’m keeping them and seeing if dropping everything else works. I have a doctor appointment this week to talk over my progress so we’ll see what she says, but I have to admit that I feel good, I’m sleeping a little better, my anxiety has gone down, and I’ve almost lost a Calvin in weight. That’s hard to argue with.

I can’t imagine never eating nachos again but I also can’t imagine living forever with fatigue, joint pain, etc. for cheese sauce. Sigh. Adulthood is tricky. Keep you posted…

Food Allergies and the First Grade

Posted by Carly Morgan

“Food allergies and the first grade.” That title sounds like it would be a good children’s book, right? All about how some poor kid is nervous about all the things that could happen at school but then the class bands together and everything turns out all right in the end?

Five more weeks until school starts.

There’s no reason for me to think anything terrible is going to happen with Eva’s allergies at school this year. Unlike our complete meltdown-fail two years ago, we have done this before. Eva made it through a whole year of half-day Kindergarten without a single overnight hospital admission and even though there were a few bumps in the road, we learned a lot and Eva proved to be about 90% reliable in the taking-care-of-herself department.

Plus, now that she’s gotten into a gifted program, she won’t be in a typical public school setting with thirty other kids and one overstretched teacher. She’ll be in a smaller setting with more supervision, more support, etc. We’ve already met everyone and we’re due to have a meeting before school starts and we can get everything in place and I should really calm down.

If it was just school, I think I’d be ok. Been there, done that, minimal medical intervention needed.

But…lunch.

Eva is so excited to have lunch at school. She’s completely zeroed in on school lunchtime as being the highlight of getting older. She draws pictures of fantasy lunch boxes and scours the coupon mailers for foods that look like they’d be good to take to school. And she’s pinky sworn crossed her heart that she won’t sit with anyone eating a PB&J.

Allergy kids eat lunch at school all the time. There are allergy-free tables and signs and hand-washing practices. And Eva will be wearing her Epi-pen and we’ll have the emergency plan in place.

A little boy died from his food allergy on June 28 after a classmate gave him cheese. Or, to be more specific, he either “flicked” it on him, put it down his shirt, or snuck it into his sandwich (depending on which news story you read). The boy died. The other boy got arrested. It’s all very sad. And I shouldn’t read the stories because they don’t help, but I did and these was this one article where a parent defended it all saying that the boys were just playing and it was nobody’s fault. And I just…

Don’t do that. You don’t have to point at this thirteen year old boy who made a terrible mistake and yell, “Murderer!” but don’t make it small because there might be other kids who can hear you. Other parents who also feel better inside if they can shrug and throw up their hands like “hey, what can you do?” as if having food allergies meant that kid was doomed and it was just a matter of time.

There’s lots you can do but the core job you have is to take it seriously. Everything starts there. Even if you don’t know what to do about someone else’s food allergy, if you take it seriously you’ll at least know to ask or err waaaaaaay on the side of caution. And I get it – sometimes kids are punks and they don’t know the difference between funny teasing and not-funny teasing, but I will tell you that Calvin once joked that he was going to “get” Eva with some peanut butter and we Shut. That. S#%@. Down.

If there’s a kid in your world this school year that has a food allergy, have the conversation at home and try to hedge the feelings of frustration if class treats are restricted or hands need to be washed more often. Explain that it isn’t something anyone wants to have and remind your kids that they only have to be careful for a few hours while their classmate has to be careful all the time. Just have the talk, even if it seems silly and obvious, because somewhere there’s a boy who is now due to appear in court because another boy died and I really, really, really wish someone had had that talk with him.

In the meantime, we will prepare ourselves, take precautions, and trust in the kindness of others. And breathe. We’ll breathe.

2 Months Into Cranio: Helmet Life and Head Scars

Posted by Carly Morgan

It’s crazy to think that it’s already been two months since Felix had to have surgery on his skull for craniosynostosis. At the time it felt like the worst thing that could have happened to us but now it’s faded into the background as we’ve moved to our new house, started summer vacation, and gotten used to living with a baby in a helmet. I actually forget that the top of his skull is missing sometimes until I’m washing his hair and there’s no bone there.

It’s not actually as gross as it sounds. I thought it was going to be gag-inducing that he would just be a brain with some hair on it but it really is like the soft spots babies have when they’re born, if you took all the soft spots and shoved them together into one mega spot on the top. It was a little nerve wracking to have the kids be around him before we got the helmet, since head injury seemed inevitable, but we made it through the two weeks of post-op recovery until it was time to start helmet therapy.

I don’t love the helmet. It’s clunky and since he gets sweaty in it occasionally it has a high-school-locker-room aroma that is no bueno. We wash it out with alcohol wipes every night but the trick seems to be to occasionally wipe the whole thing out with a handful of purell, rinse it with hot water, and put it out in the sun for a half hour. That’s not medical advice, mind you, since I’m pretty sure they told me not to do stuff like that, but I can’t cuddle with something that smells like a gym sock even if there’s a cute Felix underneath.

They estimated that he’ll go through four helmets over the next year but so far he’s only been in the first one. They scan him in something that looks like a big copier machine every four weeks to see how he’s progressed because his job is to grow from side to side while the helmet’s job is to keep him from getting any larger front to back. There was a huge shift right after surgery and the one month comparison was pretty crazy:

Since then he’s been shifting so slowly that I can’t really see it but the computer can pick it up on the scan. It’s hard because sometimes I get paranoid that his head is actually going back to the “bad” shape since kids have relapsed and had to redo the surgery before but he still looks much different than he did. I don’t know – I’ve always thought he’s handsome.

As for the scars themselves, he’s got some cradle cap right around one of the incisions that’s been a little stubborn but he never had an infection or any kind of irritation following surgery. The stitches dissolved on their own so we didn’t have to worry about that and the surgeon barely looked at him during follow up so I guess that isn’t something they’re losing sleep over.

We go back to see neuro and plastic in about a month and I’m secretly hoping he magically did all of his head shifting faster than any baby ever because those helmets cost us $500 out of pocket. To be fair, though, then he’d just be back to being a big soft spot out in the open so I guess I want the helmet to stick around for a little while. At least he rocks the helmet look!

Reading Before 5 Years Old (What Did and Didn’t Work)

Posted by Carly Morgan

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

We have two early readers in the house. Eva, the six year old, is comfortable with chapter books and just finished the Ramona series by Beverly Cleary. Calvin, the three year old soon to be four, can do Level 4 readers but prefers big picture books with a lot of rhyming. Both of them can read labels in the kitchen, instructions for toys, and the street signs in our neighborhood. Best of all, they can both read for an hour or more by themselves.

One of our big goals with parenting was to raise kids who loved books but our journey to reading was a little crazier than I thought it was going to be. Honestly, I think I complicated the process by buying into all of the chatter about how hard it is to get kids to read and, as a result, buying books and programs designed to make that process easier. I wasted a lot of money and time on things that were not fun and not helpful. I also stumbled into a few super helpful tricks along the way, so I thought I’d give you the hits and misses list.

Stuff that didn’t work:

1 /// Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I’m going to get pushback for this one, I’m sure, because it is the go-to book that was recommended to me by about ten different people. So, you can take my experience with a grain of salt BUT this was the worst of the worst for us. Drills, repetition, and mindless exercises that will do nothing but bore and frustrate both of you. This book also has nothing to do with learning to love books. Blah. I sent it off to the thrift store within two months.

2 /// The BOB Books Series. This was another series that I bought because everyone was using them. Yes, I purchased all of them and no, they don’t work. While not as bad as the book mentioned above, the BOB books aren’t designed to make kids love books so the stories are boring and the skill level felt a little inconsistent. We tried them a few times but never got into them.

3 /// Leap TAG system. This is a really cool system that gives kids the power to read by themselves before they’re ready by using a pen that reads aloud when the kids touch the words. The system incorporates a ton of books and familiar characters (Disney, Suess, etc.) so I had high hopes for it. While it’s a lot of fun, my kids were pretty lazy about using it as a learning tool and ultimately went from mindlessly running the pen across the words without trying to read to reading the books without a pen. So I don’t recommend it as a go-to early reading tool but I would say it’s a pretty fun toy that did get them to enjoy books.

Stuff that did work:

1 /// Alphabet Dice. This was a complete accident. I was at the grocery store and wanted to grab a little something to surprise the kids so I picked up Campbell’s Alphabet Dice Game because I thought it was funny. I have no idea how you actually play the game but the dice themselves are the best tool for learning letter sounds and building small words. After practicing phonics, each kid started with “at” and then added the other letters to make rhyming worlds (cat, bat, sat, etc.) which was a great way to get them excited about sounding things out. As their reading skills progressed, we moved into using the dice to spell sight words, rolling the dice and writing words that start with that letter, and so on. We’re still finding ways to use them!

2 /// The Preschool Prep Collection. Another semi-accident here. This was a random Groupon purchase to use up some credit I had from referrals way back when and it became Eva’s favorite DVD set. I thought she was nuts because the production quality is low and it’s repetitive and there’s no story, but she loved these. Then, Calvin loved them even harder. They still ask to watch them. I don’t get it, but these DVDs were huge on teaching them phonic blends and sight words. Plus, they’re super chill so they aren’t annoying to have on in the background or during quiet time if you aren’t opposed to TV.

3 /// Having books absolutely everywhere. Finally, we stuffed books in all the places. Sure, we have bookshelves of books but we also have bins to flip through in the playroom, in their bedrooms, and in the living room. There are magazines in the kitchen to look at while waiting for food, waterproof books for bath time, pocket books in the diaper bag, and car organizers stuffed with books hanging in front of their car seats. (The ones meant for iPads work great for this.) And don’t forget a book light or two if you don’t mind them reading themselves to sleep.

It’s not the end of the world if kids don’t read early, but that extra boost definitely raises the chances that your kid will enjoy school. The way most kids are taught is so book-based that being a little behind in reading or feeling like reading is tiring in itself just adds stress on top of the exhaustion of learning everything else. Yes, Eva found parts of Kindergarten a little redundant, but I’d rather she struggle with boredom than with reading.

Plus, once kids can read on their own they become free to follow their own interests and find information out for themselves. Did you know that babies can taste with their cheeks or that the color in tornadoes is the dirt that the wind picks up? Learned that from my readers.

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